Rex Outdoors: Off-Trail Essentials

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Rex Outdoors: Off-Trail Essentials

Rex Outdoors: Off-Trail Essentials

When I go backpacking off trail over rough terrain in various types of weather it is always difficult to scale back what I need and what I just want for comfort. There is a vast difference between what you think you need and what you actually use. I sometimes bring more than I can handle and the weight is more than preferred on the steep inclines. Once I even buried my unneeded gear at a point I would be returning to. That’s not recommended; I only use that as an example of how I needed to lighten the load. I nice guy I met on the AT once said, “Hikers bring too much water. They end up figuring out they can just refill along the trip”. This is true but it would require some special consideration to your chosen route and making sure you’re hitting your water refill point frequently enough.

The following is a list of what I initially think to bring and will carry on my back. Once I pack it all and weigh my bag I start cutting back.

  1. A nice comfortable backpack with a bottom accessible sleep system zipper
  2. Waterproof bag for change of clothes
  3. Cold weather layers based on conditions forecasted
  4. Extra shoes or boots to change into if need be
  5. Set of sandals with ankle strap to air out feet, cross a stream, or take a dip
  6. Extra wool socks
  7. Camp stove with extra fuel if needed
  8. Camp food-vacuumed packed
  9. Camp utensils, or just a camp spork
  10. Water purifier
  11. Extra water if needed
  12. Hygiene kit-toothbrush with paste, soap. If you need more, add it sparingly
  13. Foot care kit. This is user specific and takes practice to dial in what works for you. It is worth the research to find what will work for you.
  14. Sewing kit for major issues
  15. Sun block and bug spray
  16. GPS for emergencies
  17. Cell phone external battery charger and/or solar charger (this requires a good amount of sun people!). You can take both and see what works best. Don’t forget your cords.
  18. Zip lock bags for wallet items
  19. Pick a good spot for your car keys with a tie down or clip for assured retention
  20. Head lamp with extra batteries
  21. Knife, hatchet or even an axe if you want the challenge of carrying items in your hand
  22. Trek poles are good for hills and balance on descending slopes
  23. Don’t forget your favorite puffer jacket
  24. Para cord and/or bungee cords
  25. Tent or a rain fly/ tarp with 5-10 tent stakes
  26. Sleep system or quilt with compression sack
  27. Inflatable pillow, or your puffer jacket can do the trick


If you are moving at a good pace and like to have your essentials right at your fingertips, Rex Outdoors will be making a kid and adult vest for this type of activity. The kids vest is called the Rex Microvest and it is now availible. Soon after we launch the Microvest, we will launch one for adults also. Having your water, powders, gels, snacks, map, compass, lighter, pens, protractor, and cell phone for pictures is a task for an awesome vest.


The following is a list of what would fit into your front-mounted vest:

  1. Water bottles
  2. Map
  3. Compass
  4. Protractor
  5. Pens
  6. Cell phone
  7. Supplements
  8. Snacks
  9. Motrin or Aspirin (always consult your doctor)
  10. Lighter
  11. Sunglasses
  12. Kid collectables: rocks, leaves, sticks, etc.


What you choose to wear will depend on how fast you’re moving and what the outside conditions are like. I like to wear layers that I can take on and off quickly. When you’re moving fast, a wind breaker works well over a thin wool layer if temperatures are close to freezing. Keep in mind that what you wear will get wet from sweat and, when you stop, that sweat can make you very cold. While moving I like to wear just enough to not be shivering. When I stop I’m usually wet from sweat so I toss on my puffer jacket while I am not moving to keep that sweat warm.


The following is a list of worn or hand-held items:

  1. Hat
  2. Wool t-shirt/long sleeve layer
  3. Wind breaker if needed, but keep in mind the brush can abuse your wind breaker
  4. Belt
  5. Knife with tie down long enough to use it and tuck it away
  6. Light pants that can take a beating in the brush and dry fast if wet
  7. Wool socks
  8. Broken-in boots-make sure you do this or your foot kit will get used a lot
  9. Trekking poles or axe
  10. Compass and map
  11. Rex Vest
  12. Backpack


A few tips:

  1. First and foremost-only go off trail if you’re confident at orienteering. You should have some experience navigating with a map and compass and be confident you can get help if you have an emergency. Getting lost in the woods can be dangerous.
  2. Always brief a friend on your start point and endpoint and give them your location when you have reception. If you never have reception, give them your planned route. It is required in most areas to notify the forest rangers of your presence in the area. They can then help inform you of any restricted areas.
  3. Traveling over rough terrain off trail requires some pre-planning and needs some special consideration to your skill level and weather conditions.


With all this said, off-trailing can be some of the most rewarding time spent outdoors and at Rex Outdoors, this is one of our favorite pastimes.

 "Have a good hike"

Adam Johnson

Rex Outdoors LLC

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